How to Smell Wine

Formal wine tasting is an activity rife with opportunity to look absolutely absurd if you’re not doing it right. We don’t want to see any of our beloved wine-loving friends risk making any particularly upsetting mistakes, so we’re offering up a simple guide to one of the five S’s of wine tasting.

As you know, “see, swirl, smell, sip, savor (or spit)” provides a roadmap to enjoying wine with sophistication and finesse. I want to hone in on one step that is exceptionally prone to bizarre interpretation: smelling.

The senses of taste and smell use the same types of receptors, and one naturally enhances the other. The complexity of wine benefits from a trained use of both to uncover the multilayered notes of flavor.  To properly smell wine, we’ve broken it down into a few key “substeps” to help you get it all right.

1.    Swirl gently.

Yes, swirling is its own step, but that piece is actually about checking out the body of the wine and getting a sense of its heaviness. Here, swirling helps release the aromas and odors for step two.

2.    Quick sniff.

This first brief smell is to get an impression, an overall idea of the combinative flavors of the wine. The smell here shouldn’t be deep or intense.

3.    Tilt and raise.

Tilt your wine glass at about 20-30 degrees and raise it just short of your face.

4.    Deep sniff.

Stick your nose into the glass (not the wine!) and take a deep and slow breath through your nose.  This will carry you through the layers of flavors and allow you to identify the key notes of flavor.

Viola. You’re a wine-smelling pro, ready for that first tantalizing sip.

Photo courtesy of @coastalkellyblog Instagram

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